Also starring: Melvin Burgess, Anne Fine, Mary Hooper, Sophie McKenzie, Patrick Ness, Bali Rai and Jenny Valentine
Synopsis from Goodreads.
Some of today’s leading writers for teens are gathered here in a wonderful collection of original stories: some funny, some moving, some haunting but all revolving around the same subject – having sex for the first time!
“It’s that kind of story. Certain words are necessary because this is real life, but you can’t actually show ‘em because we’re too young to read about the stuff we actually do, yeah?
Initial Final Page Thoughts.
Has anyone seen Cinema Paradiso?
If yes: Stick with me for this bit and read my highly
convoluted intelligent analogy.
If no but you don’t mind it being spoilt: Stick with me for this bit and read my highly
convoluted intelligent analogy.
If no but you would rather it not be spoilt: I loved this book and you can skip ahead to the high points.
You know the part where the priest tells Alfredo that he has to censor the films he shows in his cinema? And Alfredo explains this to Toto, his young apprentice, that he has to cut all the rude scenes out and all these clippings are in the big box? And then when the cut film is playing the audience boo because the scene cuts just when the couples are about to kiss?
That’s usually me when I’m reading a YA book.
I can probably count on both hands the books I’ve read recently where teenagers have sex.
Maybe I’m just reading the wrong books or maybe it’s because it doesn’t have any relevance to the story and the characters or maybe it’s because if a teenager reads a book where characters have sex, or even discuss sex, they will obviously run out and have immoral sex in an alley behind the nearest paper shop.
So at the end of Cinema Paradiso, Alfredo sends the now grown up Toto a film of all the rude scenes spliced together and it’s all emotional and lovely and brilliant.
This book was the literary equivalent of that end scene.
It was like Mr Gray had gone through all the snippets and cut scenes of books from YA writers all across the world and put them together into one fantastic collection.
SEX! Home-grown writers. Realistic portrayal of emotions. Awkward parent chats. Awkward teacher chats. Great dialogue. Condoms on cucumbers. Vocal grannies. Footie shirts. Cock-cagoules. Hand-shandies. History. Diversity. The importance of being honest about sex. Truth. The censorship discussion.
If I could get away with giving this book five stars, full marks, performing a solo Mexican Wave in its honour based solely on Mr Ness’ “It’s Different For Boys”….I would.
But unfortunately I can’t.
So anyone who has ever
seen me wear my “I LOVE NESS” t-shirt heard me talking about Ness and his writing will know that it makes me lose my [blank] mind.
And these 50 pages or so were no exception.
My other favourites were Scoring by Keith Gray, The White Towel by Bali Rai and The Way It Is by Sophie McKenzie.
I wish there had been more stories told from the perspective of the girls. Out of the eight stories, only two were told from the perspective of the ladies. (I’m not counting Anne Fine’s because it’s told from a teacher’s viewpoint and Ms McKenzie’s was told from alternating perspective ) . Maybe it was just because the first four stories were about the boys but, to me anyway, it seemed to be an extremely male-centric book.
I actually enjoyed all of the stories but I couldn’t help but think that both Melvin Burgess and Mary Hooper’s stories would have been so much better if they were part of a longer book.
But the more I think about it, the more that is actually a high point because I wanted to know more about their brilliant characters… but, whatever… I had to find something, didn’t I?
But I’ll leave the decision with you.
It’s difficult to give a number because most of these stories are absolutely hilarious so they kind of toned the sadness down.
But I will say that Bali Rai and Mary Hooper’s story practically gutted me. I’ve never read anything by either of those two authors but based on those stories I definitely will be doing so in the future.
People who boo when YA books fade to black or get all tongue-tied when *whispers* sex is brought up. People who are looking for a collection of hilarious, heart breaking and realistic contemporary stories. People who have ever had an awkward conversation with their parents and teachers about sex.